Saturday, October 31, 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

Pre-Hallow activities

She insisted that we "bing wahder bo'll" in her Toto basket. I don't know why the original Dorothy never thought of that.
Brianna got to dress up at Gold's for the childcare today. My Pump Class had an 80's dress-up theme. Since I was born halfway through the 80's, I don't really remember much. So I went as a-mom-in-a-hurry.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

We're trying...

But it's really hard! At home we're fine - she sits on the potty and does her thing - IF I keep her bare-bottomed. If she's wearing a diaper, she won't hold it. But I can't just stay home all day - so when we go out, she's diapered, and almost always uses that opportunity to relieve herself. I'm too chicken to put her in underwear yet... maybe that's our next step. These pics are from our first attempt last month. I wanted her to just use the regular toilet, for obvious reasons, but we had to stay right by her and she can't get up there by herself. So we switched to the smaller toddler potty - she can do it solo, and isn't as nervous. Plus, for certain bodily functions, a child needs to be able to have their feet on the ground for support. Or so I've read.

ps - can't believe I'm writing about this, and it just seems so matter-of-fact. I remember years ago hearing other people speak so bluntly about their children's toilet-training development and thinking - ew. Real classy. Now Brian and I regularly sing "the potty song" with Brianna. I'll give you the first line: "byebye peepee, byebye poop. I've got a brand new poooottttyyy, and I'm gonna try it too."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Belated shout-out to Fall

I think there's a rule somewhere that everyone has to blog about how much they love this season.
I have neglected to do that yet. But our mini snow storm today reminded me that it's almost winter, so I better show a little love to my favorite time of year.
Check out this plant in our front yard - my photography "skills" can't really do it justice. In fact, some parts are blurry because I think there were smudges on the lens. But you get the idea - bright red plant. Very neat. Yay Fall.
And yes - she's dragging around that blanket everywhere. I try to limit it's use to indoors only, but she's sneaky. It gets bleached often.
If you look at the center picture, she's got a "WHOA" expression on her face. She saw a "big bug!" and couldn't take her eyes off it. I think I heard "big bug mommy!" enough times to make me ready for winter, when they all disappear.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fully dressed

I've recently been accused of not dressing my daughter cute, or not dressing her at all (I love how blunt my family is - really, not sarcastic about that). I admit, my blog posts frequently feature partial toddler nudity. And, truthbetold... I'm not the type to spend a lot of time and money on frivolousness. I'm practical - I care that she's comfortable. I dress her for the weather, because we're outside a lot. If I happen to pull out pants and a sweater that match - well, then sign us up for the next online baby photo contest! ha. Ironically, she has more clothes than any child I've met. Seriously - it's ridiculous. I had to buy 2 of those 100 packs of toddler hangers - because both her dressers were too full. I just counted her shorts that I put away for the winter - 42. I have 3 moving boxes full of 18 mo clothes that will probably go to Meredith - most are in great condition, because Brianna didn't get around to wearing them. I've said this before - I didn't buy any of them. Maybe like 3 items in her life. All have been gifts and hand-me-downs. I just happen to have friends with children a bit older than Brianna who are quite generous. And apparently good at keeping clothes stain-free (what's the secret?!? I have battled and lost with so many shirts). Please interpret none of this as bragging - I'm simply defending myself, because I don't like being wrongfully accused (who does?). As evidence I'm not lazy/trashy here she is, fully clothed:Notice the hair tie even matches. Take that, Meredoo!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Visiting Gpa McKell

A trip "up north" (as my in-laws say) always includes a visit with Grandpa McKell. He's 91 years old and still kickin'! My favorite thing about going to his home is how sincerely happy he is to have us over. It's fun to visit someone when you know they really WANT you there. I wish we lived closer so we could go over more often (it's a solid 3 hour drive from Cedar - with the cruise set on 80).He played his organ for us (B offered interpretive dance), gave high-5's to Brianna, watched part of some foosball game with B while Brianna and I played with his collection of "great-grandkid toys," and sent us home with a bag full of meat. I've never had to purchase beef in my life (I didn't eat it much before I married Brian, and since then - our freezer has been overflowing with steaks!) We brought Grandpa a treat from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory - their "monster" $5 rice crispy treat. He said that would be his dinner for the night. I don't think he was kidding. I had won the Rocky Mountain gift certificate earlier that day at a 5K. I actually did 2 of them that morning - which sounds a little crazy - but it's just like doing a 10K with a little break halfway through. And the best part was hearing Brianna's little cheers. B tried to have her say "run faster mommy!" but she only spoke it quietly, like he was doing to her. So I only heard her yelling "go Chelsea!" copying him. Am I the only one who finds something a little troubling with their child using their first name? Anyways... this post is supposed to be about Grandpa McKell.... yeah, love that guy. Pretty sure he'll make it too 100. I'm looking forward to that party.

Friday, October 23, 2009

She still asks for Dean

I forgot to post these pictures earlier - but Brianna obviously hasn't forgotten how much fun she had with her cousin Dean last month! She asks for him several times a week. When I say he's not here she asks, "Dean-a-verk?" (wondering if Dean's at work, like her daddy is. She assumes everyone who isn't with her is at work). Here are a few pictures my brother Brian (or maybe Becky?) took:

note: these photos were all taken in Arizona, where partial-to-complete nudity is acceptable during the summer heat.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Because it's not all about me...

I have to remind myself sometimes that the purpose of this whole blogging-routine (addiction?) is to immortalize Brianna's childhood. Or rather - to record her adventures and development in a way that she might actually be interested in reading someday. She probably won't care to read about my annoyance over too many sweets being brought over to our home by friendly neighbors. She'll probably want to read about what she was like. I recently asked my own mother what I was like at this age (20.5 months). She says I was just a perfect, happy little toddler. Obviously she is having memory problems. She also claims to not remember all my misbehaving during the tween years. She does remember me emptying the pots & pans drawer, sitting in it, then putting all the kitchenware back in. While Brianna hasn't chosen that particular quirk, she has several others. Today I decided to take note of the interesting (in my subjective opinion, of course) behaviors she exhibited:

-First thing in the morning, she informed me: "ah poopy mommy." She wasn't - she just wanted her diaper off so she could roam free. Very tricky.
-She refused to be clothed until I told her we were going to park and she had to have clothes on for that. Then she immediately ran to her closet and picked up the nearest clothing item and started shoving her head into it.
-She asks for oatmeal every morning - "ooomea peeez!" I asked her if she wanted fruit in it. She nodded her head up and down very solemnly. I opened the fridge to show her the options. She selected a kiwi. I tried to convince her that a peach would work better. Just guess if I won.
-At the park, she played on the actual equipment for all of eight minutes. Then she gradually made further and further ventures, until we were just wandering around the neighborhood - her exploring, me pushing the empty stroll
er and perusing Prevention magazine.
-While passing the homes (in the Sunset subdivision near us - where we probably should have bought our home instead) she began taking notice of all the pumpkins. She pointed at one front porch and said, "one...two...PUNKINS!" I was impressed, because we've been working on learning the meaning of numbers, not just reciting them.
-I didn't even know she knew the Sunbeam song. She must have learned it at Nursery. Just today I heard her singing to herself several times, "a suuunbean, a suuunbean, deezuhs ahnts meh foh ah suuunbean." We called Nonny for that one.
-We also called Nonny to show her Brianna's imitation of a hyena (hah hahaaa), an owl (WHOOWHOO), a ghost (BOO), and a puppy (tongue out, panting).
- I was holding Brianna and she suddenly started making fake crying noises for a couple seconds. Then she said, "I kying mommy. I kying." Again, we called Nonny. It's a good thing Nonny and I have unlimited cell phone minutes.
- This one was actually yesterday - but I was so proud of Brianna, I have to make note - she found my phone and held it up to me, saying "Papa! Papa!" That meant she wanted me to call my dad. Usually she only asks me to call Nonny or Daddy or "Mehdef." So we called Papa, and I told Brianna to sing Papa a song. She did the whole alphabet! She's been stubborn about doing it on command lately, or gets distracted half way through.
- Brianna begged for "mahkahs, paypah" (markers and paper). I gave in and let her. I prefer she plays with crayons, for obvious reasons, but I gave in. Then I made the mistake of turning my head for a few minutes. I later discovered her with blue marker all over her clothing and body.
- Brianna dumped my water bottle all over the carpet. She knows she's not supposed to do that. So I sent her to a timeout in her timeout corner by the front door. She sprinted to the corner saying "yaaaayyyy!" And sat smiling, counting with me, for the entire thirty seconds. I struggled to keep a straight face. We obviously need to re-think our discipline tactics.

And now sh
e's in bed, re-energizing.

More :/

Obviously, our neighbors don't read my blog, otherwise they wouldn't have came to our door with more treats tonight.
If it's this bad already, I can't imagine what Christmas will be like!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Treat tricks

We got BOO'd a few days ago. There was a knock at the door around 9pm, and we found this guy at the front porch. I'll confess what a germaphobe I am: there is no way I'm eating anonymous homemade goods. But I didn't wanna ruin the fun... (you're supposed to BOO doorbell-ditch someone else with a similar treat and note) so I just took this same BOO straight over to another neighbor! I'm ridiculous, I know.
Our friends, the Gardners, came over last night and brought these. They had kind intentions, of course, but they were not aware of how much I detest spiders. Even edible ones. We had a lovely visit with them, though! Brianna likes their 3-yr-old Tyrus. She was asking for him as she was going to bed. That troubled me.

This is how we blog

Monday, October 19, 2009

In Utah, but not OF Utah

I got in contact with a friend I haven't heard from since highschool (over 7 years ago - seems like so long!) We were chatting on Facebook (I have a love/hate relationship with that dang site) and she asked, "so - are you still Mormon? Is that why you moved to Utah?"

Yeah. I just couldn't stand all the unrighteousness out in the mission field.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Brian and I drove home separately in matching Ram trucks for ERAC tonight. I was quite alarmed to see him get pulled over. Turns out someone had called and reported he was driving a little recklessly. B's response to the cop: "maybe they meant to report my wife- she's just up ahead in the same type of vehicle."

Friday, October 16, 2009

told ya so

Brianna was sitting on the counter next to me while I was preparing dinner (Asian lettuce wraps - PF Chang imitation attempt). I pulled out the purple onions to chop and Brianna started begging: "APPUL! APPUL! Peeez! Ahnt some! Cut eht! APPUL mommy! Peeeez!" In between each plea I tried to explain that this was NOT an apple it was an ONION, and would taste yucky. But Brianna couldn't be swayed. I prefer not to call her a stubborn child - she's steadfast and determined. Finally I figured there was no other way to teach her; I cut a slice of onion and gave it to her. She bit right into it. Two seconds later she was howling and spitting it out.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wedding announcement

Not a sibling, not a cousin.... Brian's GRANDPA is engaged!

At 86 years old, he has proposed to an 80-something yr old widow named Carol. He met her like 50 years ago when they lived at Wymount. They're getting married (for time only, and with prenups) soon. I'm really happy for him - he's still in good health, and I don't blame him for not wanting to be lonely.
These were the only pictures I could find of him - obviously, they're about a year old.

I've always liked Grandpa Berrett. He's quite a character. He definitely goes outside the box with some of his ideas - which is good. Staying inside boxes can be stifling. He's a very active, health-conscious man who keeps a gorgeous yard and garden. He plays the piano and organ very well, attends the temple frequently, and is often very thoughtful and generous. Grandma Berrett passed away a couple years ago. Brian's middle name is Berrett.
I asked Brian what we should get him for a wedding gift. Go here for his idea.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A story so sweet and precious, you might gag:

Yesterday afternoon Brian came home for lunch. I left on a quick run. When I returned, Brian headed out the door to go back to work. Brianna, looking concerned, says "Daddy! Work?" I confirmed that her dad was leaving again to go back to work. She looked at us and said, "arms." I didn't know what she meant. She said it again. Then she folded her arms. I still didn't know what she was trying to communicate. I asked her what she wanted. She said, "prear." With her arms folded, I finally understood what she meant - she wanted us to fold our arms and have prayer before Brian left, like we do in the mornings!
On the count of three, everyone: Awwwwww.......

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

a new Smith

Brianna's 15th cousin (on the Smith side) was born today!

Big congrats to Brady and Jocelyn.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Brianna and I took the St. George shuttle from the Vegas airport tonight. It's a great deal - $20 for the 2+ hour ride. Brian picked us up after a meeting that evening - conveniently also in St. George (and sadly - the annual United Way meeting. I really wanted to go to that, for obvious reasons). We let Brianna run around the parking lot for a little bit (poor kid had been stuck in an airplane or carseat for the past 5 hours). Suddenly Brian yells, "Chel - get your camera - it's a tarantula!"

Yep, just wandering around the parking lot... a giant tarantula...all hairy and evil-looking, ready to eat my daughter who kept getting closer and saying "BIG BUG!" I didn't have my camera, sadly, but I did have rocks. I used them. Tarantulas can run away pretty fast.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Lily update

Isn't she getting cute? (the baby - not me). Lilia Elaine is 10 weeks old now. I've been "helping" with her (Meredith calls it helping - I call it PLAYING) a lot for the past 5 days I've been here in Spokane. It's making me remember what it was like to have an infant! The frequent, unpredictable napping, irregular eating patterns, complete dependence, inability to communicate.... but also the total sweetness, the darling cooing, the absence of tantrums and broken household items... it makes me WANT and NOT want another baby at the same time! Lily is a precious, beautiful baby and Meredith is doing a great job as a single parent. She's an extremely fortunate single parent - having my parents around to help - but I admire her for not taking advantage of that. They only watch the baby while Meredith goes to work once a week and Institute class once a week. Mom also volunteers to take Lily to "Baby Spa" nearly every night, where Lily is pampered. Brianna and Lily are just 18 months apart, like Meredith and I are. It is a huge difference right now, obviously, but in a few years they will hopefully be best cousin-friends. The picture above is Lily and I at Shawnee (Singles) Ward today. It was kinda awkward for me to be back there again - I am SO grateful to be happily married and out of the single's scene! I reallyreally wish we lived closer to Mere and Lily. I'll be sad to leave tomorrow - but I'm honestly SO excited to get back to Brian. After a couple days apart, I need my B. And Brianna is tired of hearing, "Daddy's at work." Bye bye Lilybug!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

I tend to be a bad winner AND a bad loser

I'm in Washington hanging out with my parents and Meredith (and Lily) while Brian's in St. Louis for a training. One of my favorite things (among many) about being here is that my family likes to play GAMES! It seems like over the years of visits the favorite games phase in and out. This trip's favorites have been:

Monday, October 5, 2009

Trip to Puerto Rico and The Dominican Republic

I’ll start by answering the most FAQ: WHY did we choose to go to the Dominican Republic? Here’s our logic: Brian had vacation days that were about to expire-->if we’re going to vacation, it has to be near the ocean-->I enjoy leaving the country--> I prefer not to travel somewhere I’ve already been--> we like inexpensive locations--> we don’t like sitting in a plane for more than 8 hours-->nothing fit the criteria as well as the DR! And the Puerto Rico part just happened because gave us the option of a one-day layover there. Brian and Becky’s inspired offer to care for Brianna sealed the deal. So we spent a couple months looking forward to this! And now I present, in 7,000 words: OUR VACATION (I dare you to read it all): We arrived in Puerto Rico on Tuesday evening. I walked out of the airport and got hit with the humidity wall. Hard. It was worse than Hawaii. So thick and sweltering… I’d like to say we got used to it by the end, but I think I spent 80% of the time there in a state of sweatiness. A few facts: Puerto Rico is 110 mi long and 35 mi wide. Pop 4 million. The first gov was Juan Ponce de Leon in 1508 (I did a report about him in Junior High). The US won the island in the Spanish-American war in 1917, and it became a commonwealth in 1952. Which explains why most every major US fast food and retail chain is present there. Back to our arrival: the Enterprise shuttle took us to our car. It was driven by a nice guy named Sisco. Brian asked him if he knew his friend Neil Hafer. Sisco just stared at Brian for a minute before saying anything (Neil spent the last few years opening up Puerto Rico for Enterprise, but is now the General Manager of the UT/ID area – it would be like a visitor coming to Utah and asking a resident, “so, do you know my friend Jon Huntsman?”) They laughed about it. Sisco ended up spending a lot of time with us giving us the low-down on where to go and where not to go. This was especially helpful for us, since I neglected to do any itinerary planning before heading out. Seriously – we just showed up and figured things out as we went. That probably sounds both adventurous and stupid. It was a little of both. But the first item on our agenda didn’t need much discussion: find the beach. And we did. Gorgeous ones. Right out of postcards and movies. White sand, clear water, shells… well, the resort beach fronts anyway. We learned to head towards those and avoid the public beaches. It was tricky sneaking onto the resort beaches, but being white and wearing nice clothes helped a lot. We went to Café Puerto Rico and tried some local-sounding dishes. They were plantain-based, I think. Late Tuesday night we headed to Old San Juan. My friend Maria recommended it. I’m glad she did – the 16th/17th century forts were incredible. They’ve done am amazing job preserving them. I felt like I was in a scene from a Knight’s Tale or The Man in the Iron Mask. One of those types of movies. Brian and I climbed all over the walls and towers til past midnight (I carried a weapon mom, don’t worry – a heavy, blindingly bright flashlight). We thought about getting a hotel, but couldn’t justify spending $80 for 5 hours of sleep. We only had 19 hours to explore the island. So we drove up to the National Forest – El Yunque. We hiked around a little, but there was no moon so it was pretty dark. So we slept in the car til dawn. It was too humid to be comfortable at all, but listening to the rain forest noises was awesome – like one of those relaxation CDs people buy. The morning hikes were great – we saw birds, lizards, waterfalls, leaves bigger than my body, a breadfruit tree (I lived off those in Hawaii), gorgeous flowers, some rivers, and a 200 yr old lookout tower. And best of all – no other people! It was too early. Which meant the tower was closed, sadly. And it was very un-climb-able. We found that to be a frustration throughout our trip – we couldn’t do or buy or see things we wanted sometimes because they were closed. It seemed like no one was available early in the morning, late at night, or during the afternoon nap time. And when we did go places, I often felt like we were either ignored (racist style) or jumped on like were made out of $$$$. Anyways, so after our forest adventures. We went to the pier. We heard there were ferries to a nearby island for just $2. There were… but it wouldn’t get us back in time for our flight to the Dominican Republic. So we just walked along the pier. I bought bananas from a lady on a corner stand. They were really good. So I went back and bought more. This is another recurrent theme throughout our trip – frequenting the fruit stands. Brian was very tolerant of me, which I appreciated. Especially when I made our car smell like papayas (which I think was great, but he said it smelled like caca). We kept walking along the coast and eventually saw a wrecked ship! It looked like the one from Priest Lake – maybe 40 or 50 years old. I wanted to go swim to it but Brian wouldn’t let me. There were some shady looking locals watching us and semi-following us (this occurred frequently as well) so we were nervous to leave our belongings on the beach. But we were able to swim in another beach down the road that was really nice. There were waves at this beach, the only beach on our whole trip where we could do body surfing. Brian hit Subway on our way to the airport (after standing in line for a little while at a local place but getting grossed out at unidentifiable meat pieces getting taste-tested by flies). I asked him to get all the veggies to the side and save them for me (Brian’s not much of a vegetable eater – he describes himself as a meatatarian), but when we met back up (I had gone in search of a panderia I thought I saw) he had no sides for me because he said the employees didn’t understand English. Another trip theme: I had to stay with Brian all the time to do our translating. Now you may be saying “Chelsea, I didn’t know you speak Spanish?!” Well I didn’t know either! Those high school and college classes kicked in well enough for us to get around ok. I’m sure I sounded muy tonto – especially when, during the short flight to the DR, I asked for jugo de anaranjado (instead of naranja – the correct word for the FRUIT orange, not the color). But oh well. I figure it’s like foreign people that come to the US – I’d rather hear them speak crappy English than just use their own language and never TRY. So I was able to get directions when we needed it and buy what we wanted. We thought Puerto Rico was pretty foreign and dissimilar to the U.S…. until we got to the DR. It made Puerto Rico look like Southern California. A few facts: The Domincan Republic covers the eastern 2/3 of the island of Hispanola. Haiti covers the other third, and we would’ve been idiots to try and go there. Suicidal idiots, probably. The DR is the second largest Caribbean country (only Cuba is larger). Pop 8.8 mil. Columbus found it when he was boating around in 1492. There are about 1000 miles of pearl-white beaches. I never met a single Dominican who could speak English fluently. The employee at National Rent-A-Car was probably the best, and I still had to use some Spanish vocab to have a conversation. We ended up waiting at the airport in La Romano about 40 minutes for him. We finally called (using the phone at Hertz – slightly awkward) and the National guy picked us up, saying he never got a reservation for us. We showed him the printout with the conf number. He said, “oye.” So we got a free upgrade. To a Chevy Aveo. Brian was thrilled (heavy sarcasm - he is not a fan of the eco-ride). But it turned out to be a decent car – it was small enough to get through tight areas (like trying to exit the supermercado – it was ridiculously – every car fighting and butting through to get out) but it was big enough that we could live in it during the daytime, in between our random hotels we found. And it survived the potholes. I think there were more potholes than solid road. On the “secondary roads” anyway. The main roads were better, but required passing through multiple toll booths and paying about five bucks at each. We did not enjoy those toll booths. Back to Wednesday – we left National (it was off-site, at Casa de Campo – the Taj Mahal of all-inclusive resorts. The opulence of it all made me gag). Again, we quickly found our way to the beach. Way better than PR. The water was clearer, the sand more clay-like and less rocky, and more palm trees. At most beaches, anyway. “Our” beachfront in Juan Dolio was great. We really got lucky with the place we found – Plaza Real. It was only $44 a night and totally beautiful and spacious. We had a mini kitchen and a TV (so we could catch up on our Spanish soap operas) and a pool with a waterfall. We stayed there two nights because we liked it so much. It had a restaurant attached, but they were kinda rude. So we went to a little Tiki Hut and became regulars. For those 2 days, anyways. And mostly because they had a laptop with internet access available. We needed it to get directions and phone numbers and figure out where to go. And send emails letting people know we were still alive. So far. I felt like that status could’ve changed at any moment, with the way people drive there. And my paranoid fears of all the staring eyes. At the Tiki Hut (called Marienda’s Café – though it was owned and operated by a sweet Italian man who spoke neither English nor Spanish very well. Odd huh) they made the third best bread I had on the whole trip. That’s a big compliment – I’m a self proclaimed bread connoisseur. I tasted every kind I saw. The very best was a thick, round, flat, cinnamony bread being sold right out of the fire-pit oven in the mountains of Samana by a large elderly lady. Amazingly yummy. Brian and I were awestruck. We bought several, though I’m pretty sure she was charging us a “white person” tax. That happened often, and was annoying. A guy tried to charge me 150 pesos for a papaya. That’s almost five bucks. Ridiculous. Anyways – Thursday morning we slept in til 7:30 (yes – that’s sleeping in for us). It felt awesome. But we really in a bit of a hurry to get going – we had no idea how crazy the drive to Santo Domingo would be, and the last morning temple session was at 10:30. There were a few in the evening, but that would cause us to have to drive home in the dark. That would be borderline suicidal. So after a morning run on the beach and a short swim, we headed out. Oh, and we collected some pretty shells to smuggle home. I don’t know if that’s illegal or not. It was in the Philippines. But I didn’t see signs. While I was running some construction workers building a new resort were yelling “hola nina!” Odd that they would mistake me for their friend Nina. We also tried calling the temple from our hotel’s “centro de llamada.” We tried calling six times. No answer. Just a recording that sent us in circles. I expected this kind of thing from the country in general, but I thought the temple would at least be a little better. We ended up getting a $7 bill for those little phone calls – even though there were no signs posted! I complained, but they wouldn’t budge. Stuff like that bugs me. Our drive to the capital was death-defying. I’m only slightly exaggerating. I can’t count the number of near-misses. We had to dodge dogs, goats, pedestrians, motorbikes, wrong-way cars coming straight at us… we actually only saw one accident – someone’s cooler had come out of the back of their car and smashed the windshield of the car in back of them. We got a little lost in Santo because there are so many weird one-way streets. We knew where we needed to go, but couldn’t find a road to get there. I was getting really sad because it was getting closer to 10:30, and I soon knew we wouldn’t make it on time. But I asked Brian to go there anyway, so we could at least see it and walk around. When we showed up, we were so lucky – another session was being held at 11:30, because that day happened to be a national holiday! “Our Lady of Mercedes,” or something like that. That explained the increased traffic. The session was in Spanish, of course, so they gave us headphones. None of the temple workers spoke English very well, but one of the counselors to the President was a nice guy from Oregon on a mission there. He helped us get clothing rental. He asked the million-dollar question (that we hear too often): “so, why are you two here?” Apparently some people don’t realize that the DR isn’t just a sweltering hot pit of poverty…it’s a Caribbean island with gorgeous beaches and cheap mangoes! After our temple session we came outside to see a couple dozen missionaries outside cleaning the grounds. Must have been a service project. They were all Caucasian, so it looked like an EFY event. We went to the Distribution Center and forgot that we in were in a place where sizes might run small… very small. One word: spandex. After that we toured the capitol by foot. It ended up being a good 2 hour walk. We went by the University, some military training center of some sort, lots of interesting statues, impromptu street bands and dancing, little neighborhoods, a hot dog stand that Brian said tasted gross, and an icecream stand that did NOT taste gross. Maybe it was just because of the heat, but I think their icecream is better than ours. We went to the oceanfront, but in Santo Domingo there’s no sandy beaches – it’s all cliffs and rocks. But still stunning and scenic. If you ignore the trash. We got back in the (sauna) car and headed to Boca Chica. There was a huge party on the beach because of the holiday. I don’t even think anyone celebrated the religious significance of “Our Lady of Merecedes Day” – it was just an excuse to play. Seriously, these people can dance. They do a lot of meringue, I think it’s called. Wherever you could hear music, you could see people dancing. That was true of our entire experience there. Even in Jumbo, a mall, the check-out boys busted out dancing as soon as music came on. I think the world would be a better place if everyone did that. We learned that for these people, it’s not a question of WHETHER to go dancing at night, but simply just WHERE. We went to another city – San Pedro de Macoris. This town was different – very rough. I think I witnessed several drug exchanges. Later in the trip we met a guy from New York who owned a jewelry factory in San Pedro. He employed 600 workers, and 20 security guards to stop them from stealing stuff. He said he had had employees try to smuggle jewelry out by swallowing it. He had to x-ray those who didn’t pass the metal detectors. We got lost in the town, and I was too scared to approach anyone on the street to ask directions. We found a McDonalds, and Brian told me to go in there because the employees would probably speak better English. That’s how it was in the Philippines. Ha. It turned into another awkward Spanish-speaking experience for me. But by this time I was starting to get a little better at it. Though it was always so weird for me to be looking at another person – another human being just like me – and not be able to fully communicate. I say things that make perfect sense in my little brain, and get a blank stare from them. And vice versa. I think the whole world needs to convert to one language. Preferably English, of course, but I’m willing to switch for the greater good. That dang Tower of Babel incident messed everything up. So we finally made it back to Juan Dolio, and I didn’t want anything more than to just throw myself in the water. We had done a lot of walking in the oppressive heat. So after dinner we spent a lot of time swimming – well past dark. I loved just floating on my back, closing my eyes, and drifting around. There were parties and dancing on the beach until about 9pm. Brian and I stayed til around 11. These people were gross – so many just left their trash on the beach. Fortunately, the resorts pay people to clean it up. Some beaches don’t have anyone to clean them, so they got nasty. We went back to our room and totally crashed. I was so exhausted I could barely shower. I never did get all the sand off. Oh – dinner was at La Meson, a Spaniard-run outdoor restaurant. It was definitely my favorite dining experience of the trip, because the waiter was SO nice, and a guitarist serenaded us almost the whole time! There were only 2 other couples there. I got the gazpacho soup, which wasn’t even very good at all. But I ate it so they wouldn’t feel bad, since they were kindof hovering over us. Brian ordered some chicken dish and said it was the best chicken of his life. It was so inexpensive – like $5 for each of us. The government tacks on a whooping 16% tax, and all eating establishments add a mandatory 10% gratuity. We only gave an additional tip at places that were really good. This was one of them. We tipped big – and I am notorious for not being a big tipper. Friday morning I got to REALLY sleep in – it was 9am before I actually left the bed. Brian got up earlier because he claims he is physically unable to sleep past 7:30. I had half-woken several times, and felt like I should get up to go do something… but then I thought – like what? Hurry and get to the beach? Hurry and go buy mangoes? Those things will be there allll day. No rush. I remember looking in the mirror that morning and being a little shocked – my skin looked great! Very unusual for me – I don’t have great skin. But all that humidity was definitely helping me out, I guess. Or maybe the salt water. Or maybe the complete lack of stress. I went outside and found the same cat that had been following us the night before. Sheesh… you give an animal a snack once, and they never leave you alone. It wasn’t even a good one – just the croutons from my salad. It actually was a decent looking cat – not all beaten up and emaciated like some others we’d seen. I remembered that our New Yorker friend (Frank, although we called him Barry cuz he kept talking about how much he loves Obama) told us that the people there EAT cats. I’m not sure if that’s worse than the dog-eating that occurred in the Philippines. Gross. En espanol: sicknasty. Oh – so our friend Barry/Frank was kindof from New York – but he was German, though born in Holland, spoke 5 languages, and lived in the DR as a landlord for apartment units. Obviously quite well-off. He hung out at Marienda’s Café all the time. Though arrogant and annoying, he was actually quite helpful in answering our questions about various aspects of the DR. He found out we were from Utah and said “you conservatives are all messed up. Capitalism will never work because of GREED. You must be Mormon, right?” (we responded in the affirmative, of course, but I can’t help but think how annoying it must be for non-LDS Utahns to be frequently assumed to be conservative Mormons). BarryFrank went on: “So you must believe in Jesus. Well, Jesus was the ultimate Socialist. He taught about equality for everyone!” Just then, one of Frank’s friends walks in the hut – a sloppy, balding, 50-ish obese man, totally plastered. He looks at us and says, “ha ha – Americans! Your government pays for me!” Then he sat down at the bar, asked in broken Spanish for the waitress to sit on his lap, then he ordered a drink and spilled it all over himself. I told BarryFrank that people like that guy are the reason I am a conservative. I shared with him my favorite bumper sticker: “Don’t spread my wealth – spread my WORK ethic.” Anyways… back to Friday morning. We went to the hut and Brian ordered a croissant con jamon. He said it wasn’t that good. I used their internet to try to find a place for us to stay in Samana. I wasn’t having any luck. The internet was slow, the power would go off an on randomly (apparently this occurs on the island everywhere – electricity is an issue) the computer was set on Italian, the websites were in Spanish, and I had learned by this point not to trust online information about the DR to be current or accurate. And I was agonizing over the thought of all the beach time I was missing by sitting there on the computer. So after reading an email from Bro. Brian informing me that Brianna was now calling Becky “mama,” I left for the water, knowing I was totally replaceable in my daughter’s mind. We snorkeled (actually, I just brought goggles for us – we didn’t wanna have to pay for rentals – which we never even saw available), then swam in the resort’s pool (absolutely gorgeous and so refreshingly cold). We packed up and headed out for a 169 kilometer drive across the island. It took about 3 hours. Normally I hate long car drives – not strongly dislike – HATE. But this was about the most entertaining ride I could imagine. Gorgeous green scenery, small farms and towns, lots of fun radio station music, and emaciated cows and sheep. We joked that this island must be the headquarters for the Skinny Cow brand. We passed a mango truck – only 20 pesos each for huge juicy fruits from heaven. Almost as good as I remember my Hawaiian mangos tasting. Brian yelled out the window, “Chel, get directions!” (he made me do this everyday). I yelled back, “Recordad, esposo, no hablo espanol. Asi no puedo preguntar. Lo siento!” The mango boys looked at me kinda weird. We stayed on the “nice” roads, which meant we had to go through all the tooth booths. It got expensive. On the way back to La Romana from Samana, we used the “secondary roads” to avoid all the taxes, but ended up getting a flat tire because of the disgusting amount and size of potholes. More on that later. So we finally made it to the Samana Peninsula, but accidently took the wrong way and went to the North side of it to a town called Las Terrenas. We had been driving for SO long, and I was so antsy to get out…plus a little nervous that we were totally lost and would never find a place to stay…I told Brian to just stop at the first resort we saw and we’d stay there, no matter the cost. Apparently I lied. We found Bahina Principe, took a tour, and found out it was about $195 per night. I gagged. I could buy like 600 mangoes for that price. And honestly… places that ritzy and posh just make me nauseous. Staying in one relatively small area, paying exorbitant prices to be pampered and TOLD how to have fun…just not my style. So we left and continued on through Las Terranas. I’m glad we went there – it was a fun beach town. We parked the car and started playing Mary-and-Joseph, but sadly there were no rooms at the Inns. Both the high-end 4 star places were full, and the dinky surfer digs. I was a little nervous. Finally we found one called Las Palmeras that had one open room – and bonus – only 800 pesos (by this time, I had started thinking in pesos instead of pulled out my phone calculator to convert prices to dollars)! It was a really cute place too – lots of tropical greenery, flowers, and everything looked clean. While we got ready to go out for the night I turned on the TV and watched a Nat Geo special on sharks attacks. Not a smart thing to do right before going in the ocean. Every other station was in Spanish, except for Larry King. Even Simpsons was in Spanish (and still totally hilarious, even though I understood very little of what they were saying). Around 10pm we came back from swimming and walking the town to discover why it was so inexpensive… it was right next to a discotec. A crazy loud dance club. The music BLARED until probably 2 or 3am. Brian is amazing – he totally fell asleep. I, on the other hand, laid in bed listening to the most annoying techno Spanish you can imagine. I also felt extremely itchy and couldn’t figure out why – then I started thinking that perhaps there were bed bugs. I was so disgusted and freaked out and paranoid that I don’t think I actually feel asleep until 4 or 5. Brian woke up around 7, totally rested, but I was a mess. Then he noticed my back – I was covered in mosquito bites! It must have happened while we were at the beach or walking around town. He said I had at least a dozen big ones. So of course I start thinking I have malaria or west nile… and started imagining myself in a Dominican hospital… then DYING and having my body shipped back to the US…. I had to stop being paranoid because I was ruining Brian’s vacation. So we enjoyed the morning and went snorkeling (goggle-ing, I guess – which I think is just as fun) and saw some colorful fish and coral. As I was swimming over the coral a wave pounded me and my thigh got scraped against the coral. Not a super bad puncture, but a little blood…which made me think about the sharks again… so we didn’t swim too much longer. We wanted to go find breakfast anyway. Brian found a place he insisted on eating at, even though I objected because the owner didn’t speak English or Spanish very well. He was either French or Italian, I couldn’t tell. I could tell that he was RU-U-U-DE. Which leads me to believe he was French (though I hate following stereotypes for entire countries…I’ve only met a couple Frenchies in my life…but they have all been quite ill-mannered by our standards). The guy even messed up our order. He brought us side salads with thick heavy dressing to go with [bland] omelets. And took 30 minutes to do it. I left Brian with my omelet and went to go find breakfast more my style…a bakery. I found a lovely French patisserie! So obviously – a lot of European influence on the island. Several people assumed Brian and I were Europeans – one kid starting asking us for money in broken French (Brian speaks a tinytiny bit from his high school classes he took). I learned that the island – particularly the Sosua area – used to be like one big red-light district. European men would travel to the DR specifically for cheap prostitutes. The country has cracked down on it big time – I only saw a few girls at night that might have been out selling themselves (yep, being judgmental here, sorry). They were wearing the clear high-heels, which in Honolulu meant only one thing (Melissa – I think you were the one who first told me that). The resorts do not allow any single Dominican male or females to enter unless they have employee IDs. No hotel is allowed to let a foreigner and a Dominican into the same room, unless they have a marriage license. Crazy huh. Any… speaking of immorality… several time throughout the trip I caught girls totally checking Brian out. I think I even saw some men doing it too. We held hands a lot. Which reminds me – I wanted to mention how sweet B was on the trip – he totally opened every door for me, pulled chairs out, carried all our stuff, held my hand all the time… it was like we were on another honeymoon, I loved it! Although he did make me do all our interactions with locals – buying things, getting directions, etc. I think he knows about as much Spanish as I do, considering how similar Tagalog and espanol are, but he said I was better at communicating with people probably just so he didn’t have to do it. I got better at it though – I think if I lived in a Spanish-speaking country and really tried hard, I could get it down in a few months. Or years. Anyways… so we headed out from Las Terranas to stay the next night in La Romana. I scared B a little when I yelled at him to stop suddenly. I saw a roadside stand with the amazing flatbread. I bought two, thought tempted to buy ten. We wanted to go to Punta Cana – well known for great beaches – but our flat tire incident took up too much time. That’s what we get for taking the secondary roads instead of paying the tolls on the nice roads. Although we did get to meet some nice people, and I found a guava tree and orange tree while Brian was putting the spare on. About 6 Dominican guys stopped to help. I don’t know if they were genuinely altruistic or just wanted money, but they were really nice, and sweated bullets helping Brian jack the car up to get the flat tire off, so I did hand them a stack of pesos saying, “para decir gracias por tu ayuda.” The spare took us all the way to La Romana (a city of nearly 2 million people – that’s a lot, considering the whole island has 8 million people). We found a tire place (“gomas” – I was learning new vocab all the time) and the owner spoke a little English. He had been a taxi driver in NYC for 9 years. It was interesting to be meeting one of those stereotypical foreign taxi drivers on the other side – back in THEIR country. He said he left because the New Yorkers were rude! But he is coming from a country where people tend to be really friendly. Though the petty crimes like theft are a huge problem. Someone told me though that it’s not as big of a deal to them as it is to us. We think of someone taking our stuff without permission as STEALING – and a huge crime (not to mention a cardinal sin). But there, it’s not as big of a deal. Doesn’t make sense to me, but whatever. We got lucky – nothing stolen on our trip. I was extremely wary of that – I might have offended people that walked by me because I would clutch my purse closer to my body. Anyways, so we had to buy a new tire because the flat one wasn’t just flat – it had become detached from the middle part. Brian says he thinks they could’ve fixed it instead of making us buy a new one, but they said no when I tried to explain what we wanted. We didn’t want National to know about the damaged tire – Brian said it’s important to bring the car back in perfect condition, since “they have our credit card info and charge the heck out of it – trust me, I know – I do it all the time.” They replaced our tire pretty quickly while we stood in the sweltering heat. Then I found out they didn’t take credit cards, and we didn’t have enough cash. So the owner/taxi guy rode with us to an ATM. We ended up having a really interesting conversation. He has 4 children from different wives. He said, “no mas mujeres para mi!” He tried to help me find a place to buy a new SD card for my camera, since mine wasn’t working. Half the pics got deleted and then the camera said the card was dysfunctional. Maybe it was the camera malfunctioning, I don’t know. So I don’t all the pictures we took there – so sad. But the after fasting and praying it started working again (by fasting – I mean a long car ride with no snacks). After the car ordeal we navigated through some crazy parade (something to do with “Christo VIENE!”) towards a nearby town, Bayahibe. It had incredible beaches. But we couldn’t find an affordable hotel – it was all pricey resorts. We toured another one – the opulence of it all was disgusting. So we went back to La Romana and stayed at a place called Riverview. We could see the river from it. Crazy huh. We walked around town a little more – stopping by another Bon location for a smoothie (they had some WEIRD topping options – like bread chunks, beans, plantains…) We walked near the river and around town where there were some interesting sculptures. Though I can’t imagine how the city leaders can justify paying for those expensive looking structures when people in their town are starving. Maybe not starving, actually…I keep comparing this place to the Phils… but they should’ve at least spent the money on city sanitation. We found an internet place and tried to go to and find out the time and location for church. No luck – it only gave us geographical coordinates. So we just showed up at a stake center we saw earlier that day. It was the only LDS building we had seen the entire trip. Brian was a little worried about that (he’s a Utah boy – accustomed to church buildings at least every 3 blocks). We came at 9 on Sunday morning (after being awoken at 6am by some guy knocking on our door to see if there were people in the room – that’s exactly what he said, anyways). Church was interesting. It began close to on time, which I was a little surprised about. I expected some combination of Mormon Standard Time, and stereotypical Caribbean Standard Time. I thought I was wrong, then I discovered that they have RS/Priesthood meeting first, Sunday School second, and Sacrament meeting last, because more than half of the congregation shows up at least an hour late. There were about 20 people on time, and 70-80 at the end. All Dominican or Haitian. The Haitians are a lot darker than the Dominicans, for the most part. The only white person was one missionary, and he came to sit behind us. We ended up talking to him during the whole first meeting (which I realized at the end must have been really annoying and distracting to people around us). He was from St. George! Elder Gardner had been out for 15 months. It was so easy to see how much he was loving his mission. Even though he had been really sick, he sweated constantly, and had their car and bike taken away from them. He was really fun to talk to. I asked him lots of questions about the church there. He said he ALWAYS gets in doors when they tract – it’s a cultural thing there to always allow visitors in. And they are usually polite, but rarely sincerely interested. He used to get fed quite often, but he said in the last year the economy crunch hasn’t been just a US thing – it’s in the DR too – and people are less generous. He told us we were lucky to have found that building – it’s the only LDS church building there with AC! Whew. But even though it was the nicest building, it still had no running water of any kind. Yeah – no toilets, no sinks… we saw some dead cockroaches and there were flies and mosquitoes attacking me during sacrament. And the sacrament bread was in tiny crumbs. But I hate sounding whiney – I’m not. I loved it. The people sang so beautifully and the kids were so adorable (even when they followed us outside asking for pesos). Totally felt the spirit there. The Sunday School teacher was awesome – so energetic and getting everyone into the lesson. They had us introduce ourselves… veryvery awkward since no one spoke English well… I just said “me llamo Chelsea, soy de Utah. Visitamos solomente hoy.” I think some thought we were visitors from Salt Lake – like church headquarters. Ha. We left right after sacrament to get to Casa de Campo to return our car in time for the flight. We had a few extra minutes, so we walked around the beach. I got really sad about leaving. It was such a gorgeous place – I knew I’d miss it. Even right now, nothing sounds better than throwing on my swimsuit and jumping in that water. But I absolutely couldn’t wait to get back to Brianna. I wanted to hold her more than anything. And I wanted a real shower – bad. My hair smelled like sand and sweat, no matter how many showers I took. Our flight took us to Miami, then to Dallas. We stayed a night at the Sleep Inn and in the morning returned to Phoenix. When we got to Brian’s house, Brianna was asleep. I let Brian be the one to go wake her up. She was so cuddly! She mostly just hugged Brian and stared at me. She said, “hi mommy.” Kinda flat – like not sure what to do or think of my sudden reappearance. I showered her in hugs and kisses and we took her outside for a swim. We presented the Smith’s with their thank-you present – some guava paste candies and a brown male/female maraca set. They were so happy they nearly cried. Then Brianna was generous enough to take all 6 of us out to Jason’s Deli. Love that place.
Final thoughts:
I’m so grateful that: I brought my HSM3 hand sanitizer. 3 of them. We rented a car instead of trying to use public transportation. I took those extra Spanish classes in high school and college. We packed light – only carryons, no checked bags. We didn’t get sick! Nothing was stolen or broken. We found practical, economical, cute souvenirs for our friends and fam. Brianna was well cared for – maybe even better than at home! Brian and I got serious Q.T. – felt like newlyweds.
Things we would do differently if we went again (which we won’t – I have too many more countries to check off my list): Fly into Punta Cana instead of La Romana, practiced conversational Spanish at beforehand, spent less time trying to see everything and more time just laying on the beach, brought toilet paper with us (no public restroom had it), researched the island more and printed maps from googleearth, been more daring with trying street food, immediately put my wipers on when someone tried to wash our windshield for money, and brought something to give away to the friends we made.
Is anyone still reading this? Wondering where the PICTURES are? Stop whining. I have more than you could ever care to look at. I present to you (in random order)… our vacation:

El TemploWe really enjoyed our session. It was all in Spanish so Brian wore headphones. I took mine off to pretend I'm more bilingual than I really am. We were so lucky to get to go - this day happened to be a holiday, so the temple was open longer.
Top photo: the evil spikey plant that leaped out at my leg and drew blood. Middle: my back, post-mosquito attack. Bottom: the Nat Geo special on sharks that I watched in our hotel room, planting irrational paranoid thoughts in my mind, preventing me from doing anything crazy in the water that may lead to further injuries. I also got a coral scrape on my thigh, but that was a yucky pic.
Santo Domingo
The capitol of the Dominican Republic was a fascinating city. There were no sandy beaches, but the rocky coastline was beautiful. Parks and natural bridges and cliffs were fun to explore. The top right pic is a close-up of the ground - I'm not sure if it was hardened lava, old coral, or just rocks. The bottom left photo is the University and the city behind it. The middle photo is The Obelisco del Malecón - originally erected by the dictator Trujillo to honor himself. It's been repainted by Elsa Núñez to honor the Dominican Woman, including (detailed photo on it's left) the three Mirabal sisters who were assasinated by Trujillo in 1960. The bottom right photo is a sign on a traffic light: "Energy donated by TRICOM". At other less fortunate intersections, traffic lights go out when the electricity goes.We also had to worry about putting things in a fridge, but the electricty might go out often enough for the food to go bad. I also hated my few attempts to use computers because I had to re-boot every time the electricity went out. The U.S. is said to be a highly individualistic country - but maybe reliable electrical power in the U.S. contributes to my illusion of being an individual, in control of my own fate?
Neat stuff
Top left: our hotel in Dallis on the way home (we have an 8 hr overnight layover and B was totally against just sleeping in the airport) we stayed at the Sleep Inn, where their continental breakfast has Texas-shaped waffles. I just thought that was funny cuz Texas is known for being obsessed with itself. Top middle: our hotel in Las Terrenas we scored for $23. It had gorgeous landscaping. I just wish it came with ear plugs since there's a dance club next door. Those people never.stop.dancing. Top right: women and men carrying baskets of goods to sell on top of their heads. Amazing balance. Next: B looking at postcards. We thought our camera wasn't working, so we bought a lot of postcards to have pics to remember the places we went. Now I don't know what to do with all of them. Next: B and I on the airplane home (thus why I look like I desperately need a good shower). We're holding our little souvenirs we purchased in the airport to use up the rest of our pesos: a cow pencil (to remember the nasty skinny cows everywhere) and Sparkies candy (which oddly seems to be the EXACT same as Skittles). Next: the scene out our front car window. This picture doesn't do it just unless you look close - it's miles and miles of palm tree farms. I think they export them. Anyone wanna buy a palm tree? Next on left: this book was our Caribbean bible. We were SOSOSOooo lucky to find it at the library in Gilbert for sale for $1! It's 2006, but the info was still so helpful. The maps and tips and numbers and guides... I could just kiss that book. Loved it. Next: I'm pointing at a YELLOW SUBMARINE! Bottom left: I'm next to orange trees! We were trying to find our way to the Limon Casadia (waterfall) and I found oranges. Bottom middle: in the Dallas airport, they have phones that call local places for you! I have been to a lot of airports, but I've never seen these. It has a touchscreen where you just select which retail location you want (like Enterprise) pick up the phone, and you're connected! Loved it. Bottom right: gorgeous flowers/leaves. If I was the photographer-type, I would've hung around that plant all day.
"Hey, that's kinda...odd..."Not surprisingly, we found a lot of things to be very different than the US. Top left: nearly every non-toll road had signs saying it was under construction. It become a joke. Next: we bought an expensive map, thinking it would be accurate. Ha. Top right: a cemetary in the DR - all above-ground cement caskets. Next: a construction worker, totally barefoot, using a machete to cut bamboo for a roof. Next two pics: the only "mall" we found. It was outdoors, and only open 10am-5pm, with an afternoon closing for naptime. Next on the left - me in a golf cart. Why is that in the "odd" category? Cuz you wouldn't think we'd be able to sneak on to a private golf course and use their golf carts. Next: me, being really cool, showing off Meredith's souvenir gift (she really likes necklaces). The shower on the right had a window next to the shower head that faced right at the neighbor's bathroom window. So we can all just watch each other shower. Bottom left: our RiverView hotel in La Romana, guaranteed to have a view of the river, did NOT. Last two pics: in the middle of the island there are miles and miles and miles of palm trees - half alive, half dead.
Because I'm a dork...
Again - props to B for being so tolerant of me.
VistaFrom the highest point on the Samana Peninsula. Pictures can't do it justice.
Plaza Real in Juan DolioI loved, loved, loved this hotel. The grounds were gorgeous and the pool seemed to call our names. It was especially refreshing after swimming in the ocean, since the water was cooler (and the ocean water was a little too warm in the afternoons!) We always had it to ourselves; I never saw another guest in it. In fact, I rarely saw another guest - period. It's their "temporada baha" in the Caribbean - the slow season. That's why this place was only $44/night! Our room had a full kitchen and living room area and cable TV (50 channels of American shows - all with voice-over Spanish. Simpsons was still funny en espanol).
I was amazed at all the "art galleries" we saw. The top 2 and bottom right are pictures I took of some paintings I liked. All of the pieces are originals - none are reproduced in mass for cheap sale. If it wasn't for their bulkiness and our need to travel light, I totally would've purchased at least one. I'd love to decorate our home in original Dominican art work. The middle pic is the view from our hotel balcony in Las Terranas, and the bottom left is Brian in an outdoor gallery across the street.
La Meson
This restaurant deserved it's own collage because it was our one "fine dining" experience (and look how well we dressed for it). We had just come in from a beach walk and were looking for a snack to grab, as usual. We didn't do the whole restaurant-thing very much - I strongly dislike restaurants. Sitting and waiting forEVer, paying people to wait on me... I'd rather grab something and go. But when we passed by this place and saw the few guests being serenaded... we joined in. It was actually a little awkward having these two guys singing "La Bamba" right by my face. Then some cheesy love song (I recognized the words, "mi amor, te amo, te quiro). But we took a video - it's on youtube. Along with a few others from this trip. Just do a search for chelseamckell's videos. Explanation on the little shot glasses Brian is sniffing: the waiter brought them to us at the end, saying it was a specialty, and on the house. Brian's comment: "that's weird to put water in those little glasses - we already have a bottle." I love Brian. So obviously, we didn't drink it, and I think the waiter was a little offended/confused. Last photo: the cat begging by our feet the whole time. I gave her my croutons.
Tiny planes, tiny rental car. The DR has THE most insane drivers on the planet. They make Utah drivers look like Driver's Ed Valedictorians. No one enforced speed limits. We went 120 all the time (kilometers per hr, of course). Right side: did you know that you can get great parking spots by pretending to be pregnant? It wasn't too hard to push my belly out (esp after all those bananas I gorged on). Left side: one of the ridiculously expensive toll booths we had to pass through. In the rain - which was fortunately just a brief shower, and one of only 2 we experienced. Next photo: B at the airport in La Romana - all the checking in was done outdoors - like every other business. I loved that - we spent more time outdoors that week than I probably spend in a month. Or several months. Next: B getting lost. Well, both of us. We spent a lot of time just wandering. Center bottom: I saw this sign and I suddenly got so homesick for my baby! I missed Brianna. Last: taking the Enterprise shuttle in Puerto Rico. A nice driver named Sisco became our friend.
Lizards everywhere! And turtles, and crazy insects, and nasty emaciated dogs, and healthy-looking cats (who later become dinner to the locals).
Just couldn't help ourselves.
View from airplane window
Cool, huh.
Fort in San Juan
So, obviously, I stole the bottom pictures. The reason is clear from the few pics of our own - I'm a horrible photographer. I couldn't figure out how to get our little camera to take decent pictures at night. Brian's not even looking at the camera anymore because he was getting annoyed with my repeated attempts at capturing this awesome place. To protect the transportation of gold, silver and jewels, on its route from America to Spain, the La Muralla Del Viejo San JuanSpaniards built a series of forts in the Caribbean. The beautiful city of San Juan was founded in 1521. A massive wall and forts were built around the city to protect it from the enemy. The city was used as a stopover for ships that came from Spain and a stronghold to prevent the enemy from taking control of the island and making Puerto Rico an enemy base. We went to El Morro - a six level castle 140 ft above the sea, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and San Juan Bay, and San Cristobal Fort. It was completed in 1771 and designed as a castle to protect the city from land invasions.
Flat tire
This little adventure stole about half our day, between the roadside repair and the repair shop ordeal. Our front left tire blew after hitting 43,782 huge potholes. That's what we get for trying to avoid the toll booths. Brian could've done the change himself (he does it at work several times a week - it's amazing how quick he is) but these guys (and quite a few others) stopped to help. The background picture is a guava tree that I found on the side of the road while these guys worked. I think the $65 flat tire was worth it, just so I could have my guava time. It brought a wave of nostalgia for the Hawaii days.
Beach in Puerto Rico
Loved it - no one else was there! Locals passing by looked at us like we were nuts. Apparently they don't realize they're living in the freakin' Caribbean and the beach was meant for playing.
Brian was very tolerant of my obsession with the tropical fruit. I ate a ridiculous number of bananas and mangoes. I wanted more papaya, but Brian said it smelled like throwup. I know a lot of people who hate on papayas. What's up with that?! The center picture is me at a fruit stand, surrounded by Dominicans kindof gawking at the crazy white girl. They're probably laughing as I'm getting price gauged. The first photo is a guava opened. Next is a banana truck. Top right is Brian and I toasting to our bananas (which did taste different than the ones from the store - worse, according to Brian, but BETTER according to me). The opened fruit on the center right is an orange - like a Hawaiian orange, with a hard shell and more tart fruit.
La Comida
Brian was more into the non-fruit cuisine. He's a bread-and-meat type of guy. Top left is THE BEST BREAD IN THE WORLD. Next is Subway in Puerto - I was too paranoid to try much "streetfood." Except the bakeries, like the top right pic - that flan was to die for. Next - Brian and I sharing a Bon mint icecream on the beachfront. Then me buying the best italian bread ever from the cafe/tiki hut run by the Italian man who couldn't speak English nor Spanish. Next on the right side was Brian's favorite meal during the trip, and the best chicken he said he's ever had. Left side - Brian peering warily into some hot dishes at a bistro type place. We saw lots of odd animal parts and root vegetables. Next in the middle is the cute Dominican kid that sold us the aforementioned bestbreadintheworld. I'm still kicking myself for not buying way more and smuggling it home. Next pic - my least favorite meal - Gazpacho soup. It wasn't good at all. But the waiters were SO nice, I felt obligated to be polite and finish it. I'd totally go back to that place simply because the service was so awesome - proof that, in the service industry, customer care is more important than the actual product. I believe that and would love someone to debate with on it. Bottom left pic: a french bakery (patisserie?) in Samana. The only other white people were French or Italian in that area. Center bottom pic is Brian holding the largest loaf of bread I've ever seen in my life. Bottom right: us at the Italian guy's cafe with a margarita pizza we ordered. We brought our leftovers back and put them in the fridge. The next morning Brian tried cold pizza for the first time in his life. Is that weird to anyone else but me? I thought everyone liked cold pizza...
El Yunque Rain Forest
We camped out in the United State's only rain forest, then got up with the sun at 6am to hike it. Loved all the noises from the froggies (coqui) all night.

Beach in the DR
Brian thought this sign was hilarious. A "poopy" bar and eatery. So mature, I know.
A river that would've been really pretty... without all the trash

Example of how direct translation doesn't always work well.
Reuniting with Brianna
We missed her SO much - definitely more than she missed us! When we came in, we went straight to her room. She was about done napping, so Brian got to get her out of her bed. She was shy and a little confused at first, I think. She wanted her blanket. She looked at me and said, "hi mommy." Kinda flat like that. But she warmed up pretty quick... then spent the next week a little clingy.
And that's all! Believe it or not, I actually left out several details. Like what color socks I was wearing. Yeah, I know this was a little (lot) over-the-top. But at least I can't be accused of another mundane post. If you read the whole thing - ten points! If you didn't read a word and just scanned through the pictures - I don't blame ya!